4 Killed, 3 Hurt As Youths Grapple With Ultras
25 February 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: A group of militants last night struck at village Rai Sehot, located about five kms short of Sunderbani under Chowki Chowra police post killing four civilians and wounding three others. Incident sparked off tension and protests in the area leading to disruption of the vehicular movement on Jammu-Rajouri road throughout the day today. Official reports said a group of three youths appeared in the provisional store of Rakesh Kumar at Rai Sehot at 2135 hours last night and asked him for three under-wears. As Rakesh Kumar went inside the shop to bring the under-wears, his brother-in-law Shiv Bushan and sister, who had just landed in the shop in a TATA Sumo from Jammu, saw the rifles hidden by the youths under their shawls and raised an alarm. Sensing trouble, two other local youths, Jagpal and Jeet Kumar, who were also sitting in the shop, grappled with the militants and tried to snatch their rifles. However, the militants opened firing at the shop killing three youths on spot and critically wounding Shiv Bushan, who later succumbed to his injuries in the sub district hospital at Sunderbani. At the time of firing, most of the shopkeepers had closed down their business concerns and only the shop of Rakesh Kumar was opened. Police said the militants might not have resorted to firing had their rifles not been noticed by the civilians. As the militants were fleeing from the spot after killing the civilians, a truck No. 8120 JK02, which was heading towards Jammu from Rajouri, also appeared at the same road. The ultras rained bullets on the speeding truck causing injuries to its driver, conductor and a labourer. However, the truck driver managed to speed away the truck despite being hit by the bullets and took the vehicle to safety. But, the vehicle over-turned due to over-speed and its all three occupants came out by breaking window panes of the truck. The militants escaped after about 20 minutes of firing at Rai Sehot. The people living in the vicinity of the firing site locked themselves inside their houses and didn't venture out till mid-night. A police party from Akhnoor police station led by SHO Inspector Arun Singh Jamwal quickly rushed to the site of massacre after getting a report on telephone from some local people and shifted the victims to Sunderbani hospital, where four of them were declared as dead. While three youths had died on spot, Shiv Bushan breathed his last in Sunderbani hospital. Police said the injured truck operator and conductor were shifted to Medical College hospital in Jammu in the mid-night but the third injured had taken shelter in a nearby bread factory and could be traced only in the morning when he was sent to Jammu hospital. Police identified the killed persons as Rakesh Kumar, 27 son of Daulat Ram, a shopkeeper in whose shop the militants executed the killings, Jeet Kumar son of Mansa Ram and Jagpal Singh son of Paras Ram, all residents of Rai Sehot and Shiv Bushan son of Jai Ram R-o Gai Bhalwal, Sunderbani. Injured were Mohd Iqbal son of Mohd Abdullah, driver of the truck, Mohd Pervez son of Mohd Hussain, conductor of the truck, both residents of Rajouri and Inderjeet son of Maheshwar Shah R-o Gulabgarh Bihar, who was presently putting up in Jawahar Nagar, Rajouri and was working as a labourer in a scrap factory. The truck, hit by the firing, was carrying scraps. Condition of the three injured was stated to be stable in the Medical College hospital, the doctors attending on them said. They had sustained gun shots on their legs and arms. Police said Shiv Bushan's wife (who happened to be the sister of Rakesh Kumar), survived the militants' firing. She told police that her husband was the first to observe that the youths asking for the under-wears were carrying rifles underneath their shawls. Shiv Bushan and Jagpal had displayed extraordinary courage and tried to disarm the militants. However, one of the militants managed to open firing with his AK-47 rifle killing all four civilians. According to police, the body of Jagpal had serious marks of rifle butts and nails injuries, which clearly indicated that he had a face-to-face clash with the militants. He had also succeeded in hitting one of the militants and snatched his rifle but another ultra opened the firing. In the mid-night, police parties led by SHO Akhnoor Arun Jamwal started a search operation for the militants without waiting for the arrival of re-enforcement of police and security forces. They continued searches till this morning but couldn't get the militants. Police said the militants might have reached their hideout, from where they had come to purchase the under- wears. In the morning, police also found three under-wears lying near the shop. Today afternoon, security forces also joined the searches to eliminate or apprehend the militants, who were believed to be hailing either from Kashmir or Doda. Tension gripped Rai Sehot and Sunderbani this morning as soon as the news of the militants' strike in the village spread. People took to the streets shouting slogans against the militants and the State Government. Shopkeepers at Rai Sehot, Sunderbani and Chowki Chowra downed their shutters and marched to the scene of carnage disrupting vehicular movement on busy Jammu- Rajouri road. In the morning, R&B Minister Madan Lal Sharma in whose Assembly segment of Akhnoor the massacre took place, Director General of Police (DGP) A K Suri, DIG Jammu-Kathua range Dilbagh Singh and Deputy Commissioner, Jammu Pawan Kotwal accompanied by other police officers rushed to the village and met the agitated people. The people alleged that they had been passing on the information about the militants' movement to security personnel frequently. However, they regretted that no search operation was carried out either by the security forces to flush out the militants from the area, leading to the strike. Meanwhile, all four victims of the militants were cremated this afternoon. While Jagpal was cremated at Rai Sehot, three others were cremated in Sunderbani. A large number of local people besides police and civil officers attended the cremation amidst highly surcharged atmosphere and shouting of slogans against the militants. The Deputy Commissioner, Jammu handed over the compensation cheques of Rs one lakh each to the dependents of four militancy victims. R&B Minister Madan Lal Sharma promised a Government job to each family of the victims besides Rs 20,000 for construction of their houses. He said the injured would be given relief in the Medical College hospital after examining gravity of their injuries. Sharma assured the people that all out efforts would be made to ensure safety and protection of the civilians. Traffic on Jammu-Rajouri road was restored this evening.